Fans of Leonard Nimoy have Star Trek Conventions. Baseball historians have trading card conventions. White people who don’t like paying taxes have tea parties. And hipsters from Generations X-through-Y have South By Southwest.
As I prepare to leave my thirties, as I continue towards a horizon that is increasingly influenced by the artist-formerly-known-as Joseph Ratzinger and less so by Quentin Tarantino… and as I find myself wondering just how much the Venn Diagrams intersect the worlds of secular society and faith overlap, I decided to try an experiment: I would wear my clerics at South By Southwest film and music festival.
Before arriving in Austin to spend my pastoral year, I had to come up with a list of goals for my time here. Among those on the list: the Austin City Limits music festival (check!), Mexican food (check!), and a University of Texas football tailgate party (check! check! check!). But the other goal that I held for myself—a goal that was a little more consistent with my religious formation—was to more strongly develop my priestly identity. So I figured that there would be few better places to explore what that would mean for me than at one of the …
This homily was given on the Tuesday of Holy Week based on the Gospel reading for the day: Peter’s Denial of Jesus. The text can be read here.
A few days ago, I was talking on the phone with somebody who had told me once that a Catholic priest had abused him when he was a child. He had just begun to get some peace about it, but all of the new allegations over the past few weeks in Ireland and Germany really kicked up these feelings again… because for him it wasn’t just the abuse, it was the cover up that happened at a larger level. All of his anger and frustration at the Church came roaring back. And as he spoke I was reminded of today’s Gospel reading.
Peter’s denial of Jesus is a story that is contained in all four Gospels; scholars estimate that the Gospels were written sometime between 30 to 60 years after the death of Jesus. But what is fascinating is that none of the gospels cover up this humongous failure of one of their leaders. In fact, this flaw is brought to the forefront of the Gospels for all of the world …
So, what happens when a Catholic seminarian interviews the director of a documentary about Muslim Punks at the South By Southwest film festival? A pretty good conversation about the struggles of being Islamic in North America and the similar dynamics involved in different spiritual traditions it turns out! After the Austin premiere of Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam, filmmaker Omar Majeed and I discussed this lesser-known movement within the modern musical and cultural landscape as it traveled from the United States to Pakistan.
The following relates to my time as a hospital chaplain this past summer in New York.
You never know what is going to be on the other side of that door. As a chaplain walking into the hospital room of a patient, there may be people who are anxiously awaiting surgery. There may be people who are packing up after an overnight stay and are delighted to be heading home. There may be people who were just told a few hours before that they only have weeks left to live.
One of the bigger jobs of the chaplain is to be empathetic with everyone on the other side of that door, to meet and encounter the feelings of the patients no matter where on the happy-or-sad scale, on the great-or-lousy continuum, on the joyous-or-defeated measuring stick they may land. And it’s not as if you have a lot of time to prepare for this diversity when you walk in the door… the patient’s physical illness is immediately available to you on the chart you walk in with; the patient’s emotional state is most decidedly not.
So a tool we as chaplains-in-training were quickly introduced to as a means of establishing …
The night before I left for seminary—my “last night” if you will—some friends were sitting on my front porch having some beers. We were joking around and doing what we all do best: busting on one another. While everyone in the group was taking their fair share of sarcastic shrapnel, eventually the barrels were turned onto the topic of my impending celibacy with the comment; “Enjoy your last night… you have to turn in your ‘Man Card’ tomorrow.” Zing!
I was reflecting on that moment while flipping the channels the other night. The old television standby of a James Bond movie appeared on the television menu, one that happened to be one of my favorites: Casino Royale. This film by far had the best acting and the best plot development of the Bond films; it also had one of the better 007s: Daniel Craig.
Daniel Craig’s Bond personified a more modern male ideal… an ideal regularly championed by any Maxim or FHM magazine. But watching this film also got me thinking how much this character—played by any actor—had been one of the major definitions of manhood I had growing up. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I …